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Articles from December 2008

Warning over painkillers bought over the internet

UK experts have warned of the dangers of purchasing drugs online following a study showing wide availability of strong painkillers over the internet. A team at Edinburgh University found 35 websites selling prescription-only pain drugs to UK customers without a prescription. Government regulators such as the MHRA, warned that buying medicines online may have “deadly” consequences.

The results appear in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. By trawling for online pharmacy sites through Google and Yahoo search engines, the researchers found almost 100 selling medicines to UK consumers.

Approximately half of those sold prescription-only painkillers but 76% did not require the customer to provide a valid prescription. Six asked for a prescription but accepted a fax or email copy, researchers said could be forged or modified.

The drugs available included addictive opioids such as tramadol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as naproxen and celecoxib, commonly prescribed for conditions such as arthritis. They can have severe side-effects and interactions with other medicines or in people with certain conditions, the researchers said.

“At best you will be wasting your money and at worst they could be deadly”
Spokeswoman MHRA

Co-proxamol – a drug which has been removed from the market in the UK due to concerns over the risk of overdose – was available from three websites. The researchers did not take the final step of actually buying the medicines as they felt it would not be ethical. To read the full story click here (05 December 2008, BBC)

Barcodes to be carried by European drugs

Medicines sold across Europe will have to have barcodes and other improved security meaures, under proposals by the European Commission, to crack down on the increasing problem of counterfeit drugs.

In addition the much-delayed “pharmaceutical package” will allow drug manufacturers to promote information about their prescription-only medicines (POMs) directly to European Union citizens for the first time, although the general ban on advertising on POMs will remain. Gunter Verheugen, EU industry commissioner, said that the position of counterfeiting was getting worse globally, with over 2.5m drug packages seized at the EU’s external borders last year (about five times the number in 2005).

But a consensus on the package has proved fraught. Initial plans which would effectively have stopped parallel trade in drug products, have been watered-down. In its place, products will have to carry mandatory safety features (e.g. seals and barcodes) and only certified manufacturers will be able to use. These will only be replaceable under strict conditions, and parallel traders will not be able to interfere with the primary packaging, including the “blisters” containing pills.

Brussels is not proposing harmonised rules for internet sales of prescription medicines – where the issue of fakes is particularly serious. But it does say that member states will have to ensure that internet supplies will take place within legal limits, and that domestic laws are enforced against illegal internet pharmacies, often in third countries. To read the full story Click Here (11 December 2008, Financial Times)

“MEDI-FAKE” action stops millions of illegal medicines

The European Commission has announced the results of the “MEDIFAKE” action, that targeted customs control on illegal medicines entering the European Union. Customs from the 27 Member States put special focus over a two month period on coordinated action to halt illegal medicines from entering the European Union. Among the products which were intercepted were anti-cancer, antibiotics, anti-malaria, anti-cholesterol medicines as well as painkillers, Viagra and drug precursors. This first EU coordinated action had exceptional results, with in excess of 34 million illegal medicines seized. It also highlighted a number of ways to improving the fight against trafficking in illegal, dangerous and counterfeit goods.

Commissioner for Taxation and Customs, László Kovács said: “In a two month period, Customs seized more than 34 million illegal pills, far exceeding expectations. This success shows the value of the new Community approach to risk management. It multiplies the effectiveness of customs controls, thereby better protecting citizens and legitimate business from new and increasing security and safety threats. Cooperation between customs and legitimate business proved vital.” It makes it evident that increasing cooperation with industry is paramount. To read the full story Click Here (16 December 2008, Europa)